I was Dallas Comedy House’s (DCH) backstage hospitality coordinator for the Dallas Comedy Festival on Friday night. My job was to make sure performers knew where to go, when to go there, and to make sure all of their performance and personal needs were met (performers gotta drink and eat chips too, y’all). For seven hours, I greeted a lot of people, ushered a lot of troupes through the training center rooms where they waited their turn to perform, and ate a lot of cold, backstage pizza.
I volunteered to be a hospitality coordinator because I wanted to meet new people and to help make people feel comfortable before their shows. For out-of-towners, I wanted them feel at home among a large group of performers that already feel at home at DCH. Something that is special about the Dallas Comedy Festival as opposed to others is that a large portion of the performers already feel completely at home in the performance space. Many troupes that strolled through the training center halls already knew the code into the center. They knew where the bathroom was and at what time they should start making their way toward the green room, just behind the stage, to be ready to perform. I wanted to make sure performers from out of town could navigate a script many of us already knew with the same ease. I wanted them to feel as at home at DCH as those who perform there several times per week and know where to move out of the way when someone yells “hanger up!” and starts tossing hangars at a ceiling.
But from what I could tell, I wasn’t an integral part of reaching that comfort level…at all. The troupes filled with faces that were unfamiliar to me didn’t need to feel at home between the DCH walls, because they already seemed at home with each other. Although everyone seemed appreciative of me telling them where to find bags of chips or where to wait to perform, they didn’t need to know that information to feel at ease. They just needed to be with their troupe.
Field Day from Austin, Texas, seemed at home when a troupe member shouted “Crouch!” and everyone immediately popped their bodies into the same yoga position. The Night Rhymers from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, seemed most at ease when they were all warming up their vocal chords by singing some smooth, seamless melodies together. Toward the end of the night, when the final members of the UCB troupe Bangarang! from Los Angeles arrived at DCH, seemingly tired from a long journey to Dallas, the rest of the troupe was ready with warm greetings and offerings of beer and wine. That warmth was received with equal levels of gratification.
It was reminder that people that perform as a group formed together and stayed together largely because of personal connections to each other. Whether those friends form together to make a new troupe like Dallas’s Duck Duck Pants or Chicago’s veterans, TJ & Dave, these were just groups of friends who loved each other who and happened to channel that love into playing pretend on a stage. My stomach is a little larger from eating too much cold, backstage pizza, but my heart is a little warmer after seeing 12 different, little families of people show so much love for each other through support and laughter backstage. I hope none of you ever stop performing, but if you do, it’s comforting to know you still have your family to support you and laugh with you no matter what you’re doing.
Amanda Hahn is a DCH graduate and performer who regularly performs in the troupe Dairy Based.
(Images: Jason Hensel)